The Best 3D Printer for an SME in 2021

The market is full of machines that let even small and medium enterprises realize the benefits of additive manufacturing. But it can be difficult to pick the best 3D printer for SME purposes. The abundance of 3D printers is part …

Ile Kauppila

November 4, 2021

The market is full of machines that let even small and medium enterprises realize the benefits of additive manufacturing. But it can be difficult to pick the best 3D printer for SME purposes.

The abundance of 3D printers is part of the problem. SME owners new to additive manufacturing can easily get lost among the more or less identical-looking printers that all seem to offer similar features.

Not knowing exactly why you want a 3D printer is another cause for confusion. We can’t blame anyone for getting confused, though — 3D printing gets a lot of coverage but its benefits sometimes get drowned in a sea of jargon.

This blog explains why SMEs need 3D printers and how they can pick the right one. We’ll also highlight the best small business 3D printers in 2021.

Why SMEs Need 3D Printers?

Additive manufacturing is becoming increasingly popular. Everyone from NASA to major automotive manufacturers have embraced 3D printers. But these machines aren’t just for large-scale manufacturers.

In fact, 3D printers have much more to offer when creating products at a smaller scale. SME-level manufacturers stand to reap huge benefits from 3D printing, including:

  • Rapid prototyping: 3D printers enable SMEs to quickly produce proofs of concept and prototypes. As a result, you can expect to see a streamlined design process and faster time to market.
  • Lower manufacturing costs: Many SMEs engage in small batch production. 3D printing significantly cuts costs significantly compared to traditional, mass-production oriented technologies, like injection moulding.
  • Less inventory space: Produced parts have to stay somewhere, and storage space is expensive. With 3D printing, you can produce parts to order in a few hours, eliminating the need to maintain massive standing inventory.
  • Freedom of design: 3D printing can produce complex, intricate geometries that are impossible for traditional manufacturing methods, such as hollow or overhanging parts. You’ll also be able to provide easily customizable products to your customers.
  • Diversification: Thanks to the simple customizability and easy storage, you can more easily start offering new parts or products to your customers. This can open up all new business opportunities and help you grow your operation.

These are just the most significant benefits SMEs get from 3D printers. For a more in-depth look, read our blog on the pros (and cons) of additive manufacturing.

What to Look for In a Small Business 3D Printer

Now that you know what 3D printing has to offer, the next question is how you can pick the best 3D printer for a small business. You shouldn’t rush the purchasing decision or you might end up with a machine that doesn’t suit your needs.

Before you buy a printer, consider these five points:

  1. What’s the primary benefit you want to see? For example, one printer might not be able to deliver both fast print speeds and extreme part resilience.
  2. Which printing technology and materials are the most suitable for your operation?
  3. How much are you ready to pay up-front and in running costs?
  4. What software do you need? Do you know how to use them?
  5. Who will operate the machine?

There’s isn’t a single all-purpose machine that’s best for every SME. Answering these questions will significantly help you narrow down your options.

In general, though, the best 3D printer for an SME is a mid-range machine in the price range of around £2,000-£10,000. These printers have the serious production ability and print quality needed for commercial operations, while still being affordable on an SME budget. They also usually have advanced features that make them easy to use for new printer operators.

Best 3D Printers for SMEs in 2021

The explained requirement might seem restricting, but luckily that’s not the case. The market is awash with affordably priced 3D printers that have proven themselves to be fully production-capable.

Here are our top picks for the best small business 3D printers in 2021.

Formlabs Form 3 — Finest Detail

Formlabs Form 3 is one of the most popular desktop-sized 3D printers. It’s a stereolithography (SLA) printer, which uses a high-powered laser to harden liquid resins into solid objects.

The Form 3 supports more than 20 different materials, including engineering and castable wax resins. As an SLA printer, it can produce extremely fine details, and it comes with the simple but powerful Formlabs Preform print preparation software.

As a resin printer, parts printed with the Form 3 are generally rather brittle. That makes it an ideal 3D printer for SMEs looking to print highly detailed, small-batch prototypes and products that won’t see much mechanical stress.

The Formlabs Form 3 Complete Package costs £4,299, and includes everything you need. On top of the printer itself, you’ll get the Form Wash and Cure post-processing stations that will improve your parts.

Formlabs Form 3

Markforged Onyx One — Toughest Parts

If you need tough parts with resilient mechanical properties, look no further than the Markforged Onyx One. This FFF printer uses Markforged’s proprietary carbon fibre-filled Onyx material that can deliver incredibly strong and heat-resistant parts.

Despite using FFF, the Onyx One still offers high surface quality and smooth finish. It’s the perfect choice for SMEs producing end-use parts for demanding applications, such as automotive or industrial machinery parts.

The Onyx One used Eiger, a web browser-based printing software that work on any computer or mobile device, allowing flexible operation. At a price of £3,995, it provides an ideal balance of productivity, part toughness, and affordability.

Markforged Onyx One

Ultimaker S5 — Industrial-Level Printing

For those who are looking to spend a bit more up front for a very capable printer, the Ultimaker S5 is the way to go. But don’t worry — at £5,715 it still won’t break the bank.

The Ultimaker S5 is a fully production-ready FFF printer, packed with advanced features from maintenance alerts to automatic print bed levelling. The printer supports a wide range of materials from both Ultimaker and third-party manufacturer, and like the Onyx One, it can also print with carbon-reinforced filaments.

An additional benefit of the S5 is its large print chamber, allowing you to print both big parts or larger batches of smaller ones. With excessive ease-of-use features, the S5 offers industrial-grade productivity at an SME price point.

BCN3D Epsilon W27 — Largest-Scale Parts

Is massive print volume important to your operation? Then the BCN3D Epsilon W27 gives you exactly what you’re looking for with its 420 x 300 x 220 mm print chamber. This 3D printer has one of the largest print volumes out of any desktop- or workbench-sized printer.

The Epsilon W27 doesn’t sacrifice print quality for size, either, and can print detailed parts in a wide range of materials. Its dual extruder technology enables advanced duplication and mirror modes, which let you print two halves of one part with each extruder.

The printer also supports soluble support materials for easy post-processing. At £4,695, it’s the printer for large-scale SME 3D printing.

BCN3D Epsilon

Sindoh 2X — Quality at a Budget

You don’t have to sacrifice printer quality just because you’re on a tighter budget. The Sindoh 2X 3D printer offers good performance and multi-material support at just £2,699.

Like the BCN3D Epsilon W27, the Sindoh 2X used independent dual extruders to provide high printing efficiency. It’s compatible with third-party materials, allowing you to save even more on running costs.

As a cherry on top of this SME 3D printing sundae, the Sindoh 2X has great ease-of-use features, such as voice guidance and Amazon Alexa integration. This printer proves that quality doesn’t have to cost a lot.

Raise3D Pro 2 — The Jack-of-All-Trades

But what if you want a little bit of everything at a reasonable price? Then the best 3D printer for your SME might just be the Raise3D Pro 2.

This professional FFF 3D printer has a well-sized printing chamber and dual extruders that let it print with high accuracy and good surface quality. It’s high-temperature extruders allow the Pro 2 to print in many different materials, including carbon fibre-reinforced filaments for engineering-grade end-use parts.

To top it all off, the Pro 2 features handy quality-of-life solutions, like a built-in camera for print monitoring. At £3,149, the Raise3D Pro 2 is an ideal machine for exploring many different aspects of 3D printing.

If you want to learn about which 3D printer is best for your SME, our expert team at SolidPrint3D is happy to help. Call us on 01926 333 777 or email us at info@solidprint3d.co.uk.

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